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Full text of "History of the Bare Hill Copper Mines, Baltimore, Maryland / [by F.J. Blazek]"

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Though it Is little known, there was once a thriving copper 
mine in the State of Maryland, The Bare Hill uopper Mines. It was 
located at what is now called Mt . Washington, on the outskirts of 
Baltimore City. There was a great deal of difficulty encountered 
in putting the mine on a profitable basis when it was first dis- 
covered. The trouble arose when the original owner was inveigled 
into an unfair agreement with a ruining engineer. 

One began to hear of the Bare Hill Copper Mines when It was 
purchases by ld r. Keener who incorporated a company of the same 
name . 

During the foremost existing years of the Bare Hill Copper 
Mining Company production rose steadily, and the profits were 
fairly large considering the times, as time progressed, the com- 
pany was hampered not only by undesireable conditions such as 
floods and fires, but by the accumulation of dishonest company 
leaders. These circumstances brought about the permanent closing 
of the mine. The land Including the mines and surroundings was 
mortgaged and finally sold. Its present o./ner being a resident 
of Washington D. C. To date, the land is for sale being in the 
hands of a Baltimore Real Estate concern. 

If perchance one were to pass by the present copper mine 
at Bare Hills, he would hardly recognize the place as a former 
copper mine . 


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The Bare -"ills are now located less than a mile from Balti- 
more City, near the suburban section known as Mt.. Washington. 
That portion of the Hills where the chrome mining operations were 
carried on is near Palls Road, while the copper mine is on Smith 
Avenue. Old Pimlico Road connects Falls Road and Smith Avenue. 
As Baltimore City increased in size, Bare Hills, quite naturally 
became closer. In the 60' s the Hills were seven miles from the 

Copper was discovered at Bare Hills in 1844 when Smith Ave- 
nue was a mere dirt road. Sometime prior to 1844, copper had been 
discovered on the farm of Thomas B. Watts, who desired that the 
deposits should be explored and worked. H e , having little money 
and knowing nothing about mining, entered into an agreement with 
Thomas Petherick, a mining engineer, for the exploration of the 
copper on the farm, ^n the agreement Watts received one dollar 
consideration and a promise of a full fifteenth part of all min- 
erals after the same had rendered fit for smelting, clear of all 
expenses. Petherick paid Watts to make an excavation to the small 
shaft previously sunk on the farm. 

In December, 1844 Petherick transferred his interest to 
Isaac Tyson Jr. This gentleman attempted to hold Watts to his 
agreement, but Watts, being advised that he had made an unequal 
contract, treated it as null. Tyson brought suit. The case was 
argued by some of the most noted lawyers of the time--Reverdy 
Johnson and J. H. B. Latrobe for Tyson, and T. Parkin Scott for 


Watts. The Court decided that the agreement was one-sided. Tyson 
could 3 under the agreement, use the mine if it were found produc- 
tive, but if found otherwise, he could just lag along, doing nothing, 
and all the time depriving Watts of revenue which he might be able 
to get from somebody else who knew better how to work it, or by 
using the property for other purposes. Therefore, the contract was 
not mutual. 

Tyson, according to history, was a loiterer. Others also 
endeavored to mine the copper there. However, the operation be- 
tween 1845-1855 -were carried on none too successfully, although 
the shaft was dug to a depth of 350 feet. The drawing of water, 
always a great question at the Bare Hills copper mine, and the 
hoisting of the ore and rubbish were done by means of a small steam 
engine. The water was drawn up in buckets through a small irreg- 
ular shaft which struck the vein at the depth of 140 feet. 

In 1855, Dr. William H. Keener acquired a small interest in 
the mine, and in 1858 he purchased a controlling interest. Captain 
Edward Powers, his superintendent, abandoned the combined use of 
shaft and slope . He widened the slope and extended it to the sur- 
face . 

In 1860 the Bare ^ills Copper Mining Company was incorporated 
by Act of the General Assembly of Maryland. Later, in 1864, the 
company was reorganized with ^eener as president, and work commenced 
on a greater scale. Up to 1864 the shaft, which was not vertical 
but on an incline of forty-five degrees, had been dug to a depth 
of 590 feet. The new system of pumping and hoisting was carried 
out by a steam engine cylinder with two boilers, 25 feet long and 


3g- feet in diameter. An ore crusher was attached to the engine 
with a pair of rollers 18 inches in diameter and 14 inches in 
length. Three jigger machines of the oblong type were used for 
sifting. Other improvements were made, such as a suitable dressing 
house for ore, an office, a smith's shop, and a carpenter's shop, 
a dwelling for the superintendent , and four blocks of miners' 
houses . 

In 1864 the mining company had a capital stock of $500,000 
in 100,000 shares. All was apparently subscribed to at the time or 
within a short period, for two dividends on the total capital were 
declared before 1866, but the working capital was not absorbed 
at the outset. Furthermore, $25,000 was loaned on good security. 
Keener, before 1864, had explored the levels and exposed to easy 
access, enough ore so that it was not necessary to spend a great 
deal in sinking the shaft. 

During the first two months of the new company's operation, 
over 175 tons of ore were mined. Only twelve miners were working 
at the time. 

From March, 1864 to Mar oh, 1865, 700 tons were taken from 
the mine, and the shaft was dug approximately 50 feet deeper to 
a 650 feet level. 

During the month of May, 1864, alone, 80 tons of ore were 
brought to the surface by 25 miners , and in June, 1864, forty 
hands were engaged at the mine. Thereafter, until 1867, the aver- 
age was twenty-five men, nine for exploration and sixteen to work 
the ore . 


A resume of the period 1863-65 shows: In 1863, 432 tons of 
which 2,352 pounds, of copper were mined with a value Of $21,558. 
In 1864, 700 tons, value about $54,300. In 1865 about 75 tons 
a month. In June, 1864, a dividend was declared of 2£ per cent, 
$12,500, on the capital stock of $500,000, and in December, another 
at 4 per cent, or f 20, 000. 

Weed In "Copper Deposits of the United States" writes that 
Dr. Lehmann, once chemist at the Baltimore Copper Works , reported 
yearly shipments prior to 1864, as varying between 2,000-2,500 tons 
of 15-20 per cent ore. Inasmuch aa the records of the Baltimore 
Copper Works were destroyed by fire, his figures mostly from memory, 
are not so accurate as the ones given by the copper mining company 

No records are available for years of 1865-1868. In July of 
1868, a great cloudburst and flood at Baltimore occurred. The mine 
was damaged and flooded and work stopped for sometime. 

. The water was pumped out, and the mines functioned intermit- 
tently from 1867 to 1887. The shaft during this period reached 
900 feet in depth inclining under Smith Avenue. For the ten year 
period 1866-77, the annual output was from 800 to 1,200 tons of 
cobbed ore, averaging 18 per cent copper, with 1,000-1,500 tons of 
hutched ore or concentrates. From 1866 to 1887 the shipments 
gradually lessened, aver a ing about 50 tons a month of 18 per cent 
cobbed ore. At that time copper was worth a price of about fifteen 
cents a pound. The gross valuation from 1864 to 1887 was then about 
fl, 750, 000 for 32,500 tons of 18 per cent material. 


In 1880, according to the Tenth Census report, the mine 
yielded 17 tons of concentrates i'rom which 1,275 pounds of copper 
were produced. '-L'he mine was undoubtedly dying. Works stopped 

In the late 90 's the mine was operated a^ain. A number of 
irlt . Washington residents became stockholders in an unsuccessful 
company. Very little was done. The fact that the company exchanged 
stocks for provisions at the general store, for the services of a 
mason who erected foundations, and for other material shows that 
it *as in weak financial condition. According to the stockholders 
and one former director who were interviewed, there were some 
honest officers m the company and thei-e were some dishonest ones. 
In any event, the stockholders lost their money. 

During this last venture, new machinery an air compressor, 
and other equipment 'were set up. One nearly resident stated that 
after all the money was gone, coal, which kept the engine 
going on which the pumps aepended-could not be purchased. The 
mine rilled up with water again. 

After this last disastrous enterprise during which the pro- 
perty was mortgaged and sold, It came into the hands of the present 
owner, Mrs. Elizabeth Hill, 716 E. 21 St. M. IV,, a resedent of 
Washington D. C. Mra. Hill has the land in the hands of a real 
estate agent, M. Goldseker 1 , of Balto. MA. Mrs. Hill's land that 
is for sale, not only included the mines themselves but also the 
surroundings . 


I tried to gain the acquaintances of some of the miners still 
living in the vicinity but my efforts ire re not rewarded. Prom what 
I observed from the people and their surroundings, 1 could, in a 
way, understand their attitude. They were not very friendly and 
education seemed to be sadly neglected, living conditions did not 
seem up to par :%nd houses were overcrowded in some cases. I ex- 
plained to them the object of rny visit, but my three years of public 
speaking aided me none. By a stroke of luck, I did make an acquain- 
tance, but the introduction was carried on between the pages of 
one of tne books from which I was gathering material. Mr. Doheny 
informed me of some of the high lights of the Copper Mning Company 
in those days. 

The period of greatest prosperity was apparently in the 1860* s. 
In those days, however, wages were not high. The miners received 
about $1.50 a day, the surface men $1.25, and the boys $.50. The 
surface men and the boys worked in one shift , ten hours of daylight , 
the miners worked in three shifts, eight hours each. The miners 
used candles, either stuck in clay on their stiff hats or placed 
on a rock. 

The ore was mined by means of hammer and black blasting pow- 
der. Later the air drill came into use, a method by which air was 
pumped down a pipe to the apparatus. Dynamite was not used in the 
earlier days , it was hardly known. Instead, they used blasting 
powder which was put in a hole frith a fuse. If the hole was wet, 
they mace a paper cartridge. 

A wooden cart with a iron frame was pulled up a three foot 
gau^e track by a cable on a dram, run by the engine. It took from 


i'our to five minutes for a load to reach the top. 

After the ore arrived at the surface, the solid pieces of 
copper were removed, the scrap was thrown away, and the remainder 
crushed, after which it was given to the boys to sift, ^ext, the 
copper concentrates were put in a trough and washed by water which 
was pumped up from the mine ana dammed up. 

The ore, in the earlier period, was taken by horse and wagon 
through a natural cut in the hills to Bare Hills Station, where a 
copper house and a siding were located on the Northern Central 
Railway. The copper sent to the copper house near the siding was 
transported to Canton, Baltimore. At a later date the ore was taken 
down Smith Avenue to the Mt. Washington Station, instead of by the 
old route . 

Most of the miners lived around Bare Hills . Six or seven of 
the old miners' houses are still in existence and occupied. The 
old mining company office is now used as a dwelling. Some of the 
rriners who worked as boys are still living in the vicinity. No 
laws had been passed in the third quater of the last century in 
regards to child labor. %>. Poheny, who was eleven years of age 
when he worked at the mine, says that there were at least ten other 
boys between the ages of twelve and eighteen working there at the 
same time. He was the youngest. Most of the boys had stopped 
school in the fifth or sixth grades. He says that the boys were 
fired daily for various pranks by old Captain Cooper, and then as 
they started to leave, wore called back again. The captain, he 
added, was superstitious about whistling in or near the mines be- 
lieving accidents would follow. Uo serious injuries or deaths 


are on record. He also stated that most of the miners were Irish 
and as for amusements whiskey was one of the few. 

The foundation where the air compressor rested, a main shaft 
now practically filled in, a ,/ater filled shaft that led to the 
main shaft, the old office, and a few houses in which the miners 
lived, besides the hills of dead materials, are about all that are 
left on the surface to snow what was once a busy mine . 



1. First and Second Reports of P. T. Tyson, State Agricultural 
Chemist, to Maryland House of Delegates, January 1860-1862. 

2. Copper Ores of Maryland, J. Overbeck. Dissertation, 1915. 

3. Maryland-Its Resources, Industries and Institutions, 1893. 

4. Maryland Mining Indus tries--W. B. Clark and E. B. Mathews, 

5. Maryland Geological Survey-Baltimore Comity, 1929. 









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